When it comes to owning a business, there are many things to think through even before a business can officially open. Some business owners admit to focusing more on their day-to-day operations, or looking ahead to the next two to three weeks, and bypassing a strategic business plan altogether. Still others believe that business plans are just for startups or for owners who have better planning skills. But the truth is that every business should have a business plan, for both the short and long-term future.
Because December is National Write a Business Plan Month, we wanted to highlight the importance of creating a business plan and all the things that go into it. Whether you are a current business owner or if you are thinking about taking the leap to open your own business, here are some practical steps to create your own business plan.
Gather Information and Feedback
One of the first, but maybe most critical, steps in creating a plan is to gather information and feedback from clients and employees. The purpose of this first step is to give you a clear understanding of where your business is at.
Talk to everyone and anyone who is directly related to your business. Talk to current customers and ask them about positive experiences and negative experiences. Talk to employees and ask them questions about processes, communication, or leadership within the company. This is a great opportunity to gather data and to get the full picture.
Identify Key Insights
Once you gather enough information, it is time to identify key insights about all this data. Did something stick out when you received feedback from customers? Is there a certain product that does better or worse than you thought?
What common themes did you see in feedback from employees? In each specific department, is there a commonality that you can identify? This could either be a positive insight or an uncovered challenge, but insights are there to tell you what you need to improve or what you are excelling at.
What are your Business Goals?
This is the million-dollar question – what business goals do you want to accomplish within the next 3 to 5 years or beyond? As a business owner, it can be difficult to determine the path to take. However, you have something to help you decide – key insights gathered from your data!
These key insights are here to guide your next steps. For example, if feedback from employees show that there is a breakdown in communication from management, then a goal of the business could be to improve communication. Additionally, if feedback from your customers shows that there is a breakdown in a sales or an implementation process, then your goal for the next year could be to find the bottlenecks or friction points within that process.
Some businesses take the business planning a step further and set goals related to each department. There can be goals for Human Resources, Operations, Technology; they can be large or small, but identifying goals for each department will help to steer everyone in the company in the same direction.
Determine How You Are Going to Accomplish Your Goals
Once you determine what your specific objectives are, then you and your team can begin mapping out the strategies to accomplish them. When you know what steps need to be taken in order to complete a goal, make sure to write them down so that everyone is aware and you hold yourself accountable.
For instance, if you have a goal to improve sales by 5% this year, then brainstorm specific action items for your sales team. Are you looking to streamline a process? Create a specific plan, maybe something related to a LEAN process, where active steps are identified.
These action items should be measurable and should serve as flagships for the larger, company-wide goal. They are small, yet meaningful, ways you can actually see employees help reach your company goal.
Don’t Be Afraid to Adjust the Plan
If it’s one thing 2020 has taught everyone in the business ownership world, it’s that you cannot be afraid to adjust your plan. Throughout this year, businesses have had to learn how to adjust plans on the fly, all for the well-being of the company. A business plan is supposed to be a living, breathing guide, and it is not meant to be set in stone. Adjusting the business plan will help you be realistic about what you can accomplish in a certain timeframe, without putting so much pressure on yourself.
How Blackhawk Bankers Can Help
Here at Blackhawk, our Commercial Bankers are always looking for ways to help improve all the businesses that we work with. We want to partner with you, as your company learns and grows throughout the next year.
Are you interested in learning more about Blackhawk Bank? Contact us today!
SVP and Senior Lender – Business Banking